On Dialogue Tags PLUS Bells for the Dead

The fourth of four parts of my short story, “Bells for the Dead,” is now live over at the Paizo site. You can find the whole thing by clicking here, which means it’s about time for me to take the character description sheet of the story’s main character live, which I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Right now I’m hard at work tinkering with the most problematic section of my new monster-sized fantasy novel. All the other parts seem to be clicking along nicely, and this one is ALMOST there. I’m getting to be able to trust my instincts with this stuff. These days when I feel something isn’t quite working I FINALLLY have enough experience that I can twist and turn it a bit to figure out why. Usually, as with here, it stemmed from not being enough in a character’s head.

My writer friendĀ Myke Cole pointed his Facebook pals to an interesting and helpful essay on ways to level up your writing, by Delilah S. Dawson. Apart from step 1., which I think can be over utilized (avoiding all dialogue tags but said) it has pretty excellent advice. In Ms. Dawson’s defense, that whole “avoiding all dialogue tags but said” thing stems from editors and instructors who’ve seen all kinds of awful writing where everyone’s always shouting and declaiming and hectoring, constantly, usually with layers of adverbs.

I happen to believe that other dialogue tags are perfectly fine in some instances, and I don’t have an objection to adverbs to describe my character’s vocal tone sometimes, either. But some people seem to feel pretty religious about it, and I’ve actually found a few reviews out there docking my own writing because the reviewer has found an adverb in one of my descriptive phrases, or because Asim shouted for Dabir to get down rather than said it. Ah well.

I suppose I could go on about this in greater detail, but I need to get some breakfast and make some phone calls and then get to writing. For the record, I LOVE that our mortgage company can just sell our mortgage to some other place without our say-so or approval. It’s happened four times now, and the new company seems to be messing everything up. One of my goals today is to get some mortgage refinancing going with a company that will NOT sell it. I think there ought to be laws against that, but this is Howard’s writing blog, so I’ll leave that grumbling for my non-existent “the way things are going to be when I become king” blog.

 

5 Comments on “On Dialogue Tags PLUS Bells for the Dead

  1. I use ‘said’ most of the time, but sometimes another attribution is called for. And sometimes you just need an adverb.

    Remember you promised me a Dukedom when you’re king.

  2. Keeping the flow you want for the reader and making sure that who’s talking are things I consider paramount. I’m certainly no zealot for banning the use of adverbs, especially not when they have such a great Schoolhouse Rock video. We’re creative writers, so we’re occasionally going to choose to do things our own way.

    Nothing more to add, but support of the point. Truly, Mr. Rutledge’s words could be my own, except that sometimes…I use no attribution at all *gasp* and, of course, that I could never settle for a dukedom.

    • Lord Phoenix, I am mightily pleased that we concur.

      Verily, sometimes no attribution works beautifully. When I was writing Dabir and Asim I was always conscious that I wanted the book to sound good when read aloud — because that’s how Asim thinks. Now that I’m writing a lot of third person pov stuff, I use unattributed text much more frequently.

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